Sunday, August 15, 2010

Floating Away From Wings and a Pier

I arrive in Buffalo in the early evening, and the first thing I want to do is scope out the harbour for a convenient place to put in. I find my way to the downtown marina which was hopping with activity. I stop at the gate to ask what was going on and Julie who was in charge explained that there was a "Poker Run" going on. I ask her about the possibility of leaving my car in the massive parking lot for at least a week, telling her what I was going to do. As a visual aid, I show her pictures of my amphibious rig on my iPod. She says it would be possible and to talk to the guys there in the morning, giving me their names.

Second order of the evening was chicken wings. I, of course, had to seek out the original home of the famous pub grub, The Anchor Bar. The place was packed so I opt to sit at the bar, the ceiling dripping with motorcycles and license plates from all over the world. There are official  police shoulder patches including the OPP and the Quebec Surete in front of me behind the bar, you can tell this place has pull. I order 20 hot wings and they are excellent, especially washed down with a couple pints of Genesee Cream. At my local pub, I have no problem putting away 20 wings, with some fries to boot, but I forget these are wings from Buffalo, All America City, and I could only manage 15 with a few celery sticks and the amazing blue cheese sauce.

As it is dark and getting late, I drive back out to the I-290 to find a cheap motel. Everything close to the city seemed to be full up — Saturday night, duh — but I finally find a place into Tonawanda. I toss and turn all night, as my stomach lived out the revenge of the chicken wings, along with my excitement and anxiety of casting off in the morning.

After a mediocre free breakfast at the motel, I head back to the downtown marina. I introduce myself to Jerry at the gate, explaining that I had spoken to Julie last night and chatted with him a bit. He was also into kayaking and wanted to do a long trip sometime. Julie, and Jerry, if you ever read this, thank you so much for accommodating my request. The peace of mind that you have given me goes a long way in allowing me to enjoy this trip.

packed up and ready to go
It took at least half an hour of unloading the boat, which entailed a thorough inventory just to make sure I had not forgotten something important. I did — water bottles. I had put them in the dishwasher and forgot to pack them before leaving.
Paddling out of the safety of the harbour and into a short stretch of the open width of the Niagara River, the gusts off of Lake Erie were churning the water into unpredictable chop. Scary, as it tossed me about randomly, and I considered heading back and maybe cycling this portion but kept on. There were also very high solid concrete embankments onto which the waves would smash and bounce back, amplifying the choppiness, and would make climbing out quite difficult should I overturn. A breakwater and a slight bend in the river farther up calm things considerably, and soon I was slipping under the Peace Bridge which was carrying  heavy trade between the two countries. Having passed the choppy ordeal in my red boat, wearing a red rashguard shirt, the song that was humourously in my head was this. thus the parody in the post's title.
"can  I just take that next exit?"
Peace Bridge
There was one point I passed ten feet in front of a humungous barge which I thought was stationary, only to find out after passing alongside that a massive tugboat was on its stern just to push it against the swift current. Yikes!
big tug and barge

The I-190 bridge
I got to a set of enormous locks meant for the big Lakers, and I asked the lock master when the next lock-through was so I could hitch a ride. He says, "as soon as you slip in and I close the gates. You guys get priority." So here I was all alone in a lock that could hold a tanker, and several million gallons of water is moved just for me. Wow, and it was free of charge! He must have radioed the guy on the other side (yes it is that long) who operated the lower gates, and he shouts down to me, " I hear you're going all the way to Albany. Stick to your right, the current is fast and don't miss the turn or else you'll end up at the Falls." He was being a bit funny, but the possibility is there so I make a point to set a waypoint in my GPS for Tonawanda Creek, lest I give thousands of tourists quite a show, a red kayak tumbling down to meet the "Maid of the Mist" 
Into the mid day I was soon sharing the river with noisy cigarette boats. I hate those things, they are like Harley Ds in the water. The water was choppy again from the traffic, so just short of Tonawanda I decide to switch to cycling. Plus I was hungry and ready for lunch. I found a pebbley incline right beside the bike path which was perfect, and only a few hundred metres from a snack bar.
Lunch was a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich
Bank Stop. If there had been a drive-thru ATM I would have used it
A few people admired the set-up. John, who was literally a couple of miles from finishing his ride from Albany was taking a picture of me as I was coming along the path so I chatted with him for a bit. When he saw my cage had no water bottle in it, he offered one of his. Nice guy. Thanks, John I hope we meet up in Albany when I get there.

The ride to Lockport goes smoothly, except for the somewhat annoying constant switching from pathway to roadway and back. Signage was lacking in some points and I did get lost, Luckily it resulted in stopping at an ice cream place to ask for directions, and talking with locals as I ingested a cone and some ice cold water.

How could anyone ever refuse Uncle G's?
I get into Lockport by 6 pm, with enough sunlight left to get to the next campground 15 kms away but I am suddenly tired, not really from physical exertion, but from the release of tension and anxiety now that I'm finally really on the road. I check into a motel hoping to catch up on sleep (haven't been sleeping well for the last 3 days) plus I want to backtrack a bit and paddle through the interesting bridges and locks at Lockport. What a great day!

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